TEXT: JOHN 4:5-30; 39-42
THE GOD/MAN JESUS IS THE WATER OF LIFE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Middle Eastern women carry water from the village well early in the morning and just before sundown. For propriety’s sake they usually go to and from the well in groups. Not this woman!  At midday – in the heat of the day – she came alone! 

As she approached she saw a man sitting “on” the well (the first meaning of the Greek “epi”). There is still capstone over Jacob’s well in Samaria. It is about 20 inches thick and five feet across with a small hole in the center for lowering a bucket (a bit different than the bulletin illustration). The capstone keeps dirt from blowing into the well and prevents children from a tragic fall. It also provides a working surface to assist travelers in transferring water into a jar or leather bag. Jesus indeed sat on the well! 

TEXT: JOHN 4:5-30; 39-42
THE GOD/MAN JESUS IS THE WATER OF LIFE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Middle Eastern women carry water from the village well early in the morning and just before sundown. For propriety’s sake they usually go to and from the well in groups. Not this woman!  At midday – in the heat of the day – she came alone! 

As she approached she saw a man sitting “on” the well (the first meaning of the Greek “epi”). There is still capstone over Jacob’s well in Samaria. It is about 20 inches thick and five feet across with a small hole in the center for lowering a bucket (a bit different than the bulletin illustration). The capstone keeps dirt from blowing into the well and prevents children from a tragic fall. It also provides a working surface to assist travelers in transferring water into a jar or leather bag. Jesus indeed sat on the well! 


On seeing a woman approach in this social context, the expected courtesy was for a man to withdraw to a distance of at least twenty feet. This indicated that it was both safe and culturally appropriate for her to approach. Jesus, however, did not move.

There he sat - in the way - a tired and thirsty man who had nothing to draw water with!  Travelers were expected to have leather buckets for such a purpose. How like men – to be unprepared for such a basic need - not so keen on caring for themselves – rather like children sometimes!  “Give me a drink” He says!  Not only did He break the social custom by not giving her space - He also broke the social taboo against talking to a woman, particularly in an uninhabited place with no witnesses.

Men!  She didn’t know they were from Mars – but they sure didn’t gain points in her book!  What’s obvious is that they’re all the same!  At least that’s what life has taught this woman of Samaria. Five husbands – no doubt one as disappointing as the next!  Elizabeth Taylor had six (seven if you count the re-run) - but five seems enough for her. They expect too much. They don’t listen enough. They haven’t measured up to her desires - so no more husbands for her. The sixth she’ll just live with – thank you!

The Samaritans held to the five books of Moses including the Ten Commandments so she knew the sixth commandment. But life can be rough!  Sadly her feelings were in charge – not God’s Word! In effect she said, “I’ll make my own rules – thank you!”  She surely did not think marriage was a gift of God. 

Men!  Here at the well in the middle of the day is another fine specimen. Weak and thirsty and unprepared!  What’s more – He’s a Jew!  How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”  The Samaritans existed since the destruction Amos prophesied. It happened in 722 BC. The Assyrians displaced conquered peoples and imported foreigners for intermarriage. Ever since they did that in Samaria, Israel regarded the Samaritan heritage as corrupt. Yet this man at the well ignores centuries-old hostility.

His response was unlike anything any man had ever said to her!  “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  In view of all the things men had said to her and in view of how many times her fickle feelings had led her astray, she proceeds with caution. “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob – who gave us this well and drank from it himself…?

The strange man then gives her an even stranger answer. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. There were no TV or radio ads back then, but no doubt there were travelling hucksters – selling their potions – their natural cure-alls. Maybe this is another scam. She’ll bite only if it’s free. “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 

She was game for a magical drink to lighten her daily grind. If it was free and made life easier – OK. That’s when Jesus acted to reveal the yearning thirst of her self-destructive life style. “Go call your husband and come here.”  The woman answered, “I have no husband.”  Her words were technically correct but substantially a lie to cover over her sin. Sin likes to hide. The water of life was flowing over her and that water exposes and uproots sin. “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”  He caught her. With a few targeted words He exposed her shame. Embarrassed at the unexpected light shining on her personal life she attempted a theological diversion. Focusing on faults of people in the church and points of contention in the church is still a common ploy today of hearts seeking to avoid truthful confrontation with their own sinfulness. 

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”  While continuing to try to hide her sin – her attempted escape raised a profound question. Jesus’ answer moves the debate to a new and thrilling level!  Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.

What an unexpected answer!  He doesn’t try to beat her down!  Having clearly revealed her sin He nonetheless clearly wants to give to her and not take from her. He wants to give her living water and eternal life!  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I that am speaking to you, I AM.” 

Men!  They’re not all the same!  This one is the great “I AM.”  This one is the God of the Old Testament –who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush!  Why is He sitting on this well exhausted and thirsty?  Because He became flesh!  He is fully human with all of our biological needs and weaknesses. He hungered. He thirsted. He became weary - even physically exhausted. He endured bodily and emotional pain. He could have remained in heavenly splendor, but His love moved Him to endure earthly suffering. On this journey His body requires hydration. The great “I AM” who created the seas, who parted the Red Sea, who gave water to His people at the rock of Horeb is in need. “Give me a drink.”

Jacob worked seven – no fourteen years – to gain his lovely Rachel as his bride. The greater Jacob – this man like no other – worked to death to wed us unlovely, ungodly sinners as His bride. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. On His death day He was more exhausted and thirstier than He was on this day. On that day He was stripped and scourged and nailed to the tree of the cross. There – again in midday heat - one of His words was “I thirst”.

He spoke it in sacrificial death because of His thirst for your salvation!  He spoke it there because not only is He a man like no other, He is also the Savior like no other – the Savior of the world. Because this Samaritan woman confessed Christ to the people of the town of Sychar, they invited Jesus to stay with them. He did and spoke God’s Word to them. Faith comes through hearing and they ultimately said, “we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Saviors – they’re all the same!  They all come to take something from you – except this one!  If you give enough then you can be saved. If you are good enough and sincere enough then you can be saved. Pray five times a day!  Demonstrate tolerance of everyone and everything!  Or, carry out Jihad and holy war!  Meditate until you achieve perfect nothingness!  Or, deny all pleasure and sacrifice yourself. Deny success and wealth because they’re evil. Or, obey God and He will bless you with health and wealth.

False saviors are like that – they tell you what you need to do in order to please god. Do this and god will love you. Do that and God will reward you. But do you really want a god who needs you to do the work?  This false understanding of god leads to a false understanding of worship. It also why many people think that all religions are basically the same. They are!

Except this one!  For the Savior of the world does not gather you at this well in order to tell you what to do!  The Savior of the world gathers you here in this place to give you living water – to give you forgiveness, life and salvation – to give you Himself!  Oh, He bids us to go and sin no more but that is not to earn His love. Rather, that is because He wants us to remain alive.

Jesus had to show this woman that she had nothing to give Him and everything to receive from Him. Then wondrously as she received the water of life – she began to well-up and overflow to others – “Come and see this man…can he be the Christ?” 

As she came to the well thirsting for more in life, so we come with real needs as well. We may suffer for faithfully doing the right thing in our vocation. We may suffer regret for doing the wrong thing. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature never tire of beating us down. Our weaknesses and failings never completely disappear. While we don’t willfully, intentionally, unrepentantly plan to go on sinning, the temptation to sin and sinning itself never stops clinging to us. We know how easily our feelings deceive us. Sometimes our thoughts and our words may test the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” 

We know our apathy and weariness and we thirst for untiring zeal and energy. We know our pride and we thirst for true humility. We know our longings and inner complaint and we thirst for joyful contentment. We know our worry and we thirst for calm trust. We know our doubts and we thirst for unshakable confidence.  We thirst for joyful confession of the faith in all circumstances, for fervent prayer every day, for cheerful generosity of heart, and for new hearts. We come with great needs.  

As fully as He was present with that woman He who conquered death is present with you this morning. The Father is seeking hearts to worship Him in spirit and truth. The truth is that the chief worship of God is the desire to receive forgiveness of sins. The truth is that the chief worship of God is to receive the Holy Spirit’s testimony to and giving of Jesus Christ.

That’s why the great “I AM” comes into your midst. He doesn’t come with demands. He comes with a pure and healing fountain. Having suffered for your guilt He comes restoring your innocence. With water from the well of salvation He refreshes those who thirst.

Men – they’re not all the same. Women – they’re not all the same either. Some are made new – like you - recreated in Christ!  You know the gift of God and who says to you, not “Give me a drink,” but “Take and drink for the forgiveness of sins. There is in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a